#15 - Martin Cooke | Navigating Fatherhood and being a Stay-at-Home Dad

Martin Cooke

🗓️ Recorded March 9th, 2023. 📍Garrufo, Provincia di Teramo, Italy

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About this Episode

Have you ever felt the weight of loneliness or struggled to find your place in the world? Join us for an insightful conversation with homeschool dad Martin Cooke. Together, we discuss the impact of creating safe spaces for men to open up, share their experiences, and form connections that can combat feelings of isolation.

Martin Cooke is a stay-at-home day we got to learn at World School Summit in Granada, Spain in 2019. It was fascinating to meet so many like-minded people. And many a strong bond was created. Martin Cooke is one of the homeschool dads we met and fell in love with.

During the summit, Martin created a Men’s Circle, where homeschool/worldschool dads could get together and talk about how it is to be a husband, dad, and homeschool father. Martin finds that men often find it harder to vocalize their emotions, making it difficult to connect with others and find support. So for him, it felt natural to create a safe space where we men could get together. It allowed us to be vulnerable and share our struggles and challenges without fear of judgment or shame.

Australian research shows that  39% of men living alone experience loneliness, and one in three men believe that there is no one to help them out if in they’re in need.

These are some sad statistics. We need to change this.

The experience of attending the Men’s circle helped me to see myself in a new light, and it has since grown in me that I want to help more men to find a better balance in their life. To help them to break down the toxic societal norms that often prevent men from seeking help and support when they need it most. To help them become better husbands, fathers, and friends.

The first step is to have more open, honest talks about how it is to be a man and a father. I hope you will enjoy this episode. I know I enjoyed the talk, and I am still on a journey to becoming a better dad. 

Martin's journey into men's circles is just the beginning - in this episode, we also explore the intertwining of identity with work, the value of embracing change, and the serendipitous moments that lead us on unexpected paths. We delve deeper into topics such as masculinity, vulnerability, and the unique challenges of parenting - touching on the joys, the struggles, and the educational experiences that come with raising children.

Lastly, we venture into the world of alternative education as Martin shares his experiences with homeschooling and the power dynamics at play in traditional schooling systems. We discuss the importance of giving our children the freedom to explore their passions and the courage necessary to question societal expectations. 

Tune in and discover how Martin's journey of embracing alternative education and defying convention has led him to create his own luck in life.

Thank you, Martin, for allowing me to be vulnerable together with you :)

- Jesper Conrad

Read about the Wilderness Woods Martin mentions in the podcast: https://www.wildernesswood.org

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With love


Jesper Conrad


Transcript of Episode 15 of The Podcast Self Directed. Hosted by Cecilie and Jesper Conrad.

E15 - Navigating Fatherhood and Being a Stay-at-Home Dad: Meet homeschool dad Martin Cooke.

Please note: This transcript is autogenerated by AI voice recognition - so there will probably be some transcription errors along the way 🙂

Martin Cooke: Got it, we're live. 

Cecilie Conrad: You do the welcoming. 

Jesper Conrad: So today we're together with Martin Cooke And the thing is, we met back in Granada in 2019, in December, and besides his lovely curls and big smile, october Was it to be annoying. To be annoying. It was October, not December. It felt like a good December. No, it was October, and now it got all weirded out. I will start all over. No, no, i will. 

Cecilie Conrad: You just got very attracted to him. Yes, let's face it. You said, nice, that's a friend, he's a good man, yeah. 

Jesper Conrad: And so we talked and chilled out for some time and had a lot of fun. But what I was impressed by with you, Martin, was that they you said, Hey, they have a woman's circle, Let's make a man's circle, And and What was actually more impressive was that you participated. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yes, Because for you it was like something like really weird The circle word. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, i didn't like that, that's funny. 

Cecilie Conrad: Because we're like real hippies. And still, we don't do circles that much. 

Jesper Conrad: No, no circles. But why? why did you want back then? What happened? Why were you like Hey, let's make a circle for us men? 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, thanks for asking And, hello, thanks for having me. So three and a half years ago we were in Granada world schooling summit and what a beautiful place to be. The connections were great And and there was a women's circle and I was like where's the men's? not cause, i was like where's the men's, but for a long time I have been interested in starting a group. This is not a group I've started. That was perhaps the first circle, but it was the invitation from Lainey who runs, that was. She said what was it? She said it's all about saying yes, she's being open to being open. And I don't know if she quite said that, but that is now almost like a mantra of mine I'm open to being open and funny because I say I try to be ready, to be ready. 

Martin Cooke: Right, okay. 

Cecilie Conrad: Getting ready to be ready. My thing, you know. Now I'm ready to be ready. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: Coffee in the morning. 

Martin Cooke: Right, right, yeah, no, i am Yeah. So I've thought about men's circles for a long time. I suppose my my background. Over the last 10 years or longer, maybe 15 years, i've worked in adult mental health in the UK, specifically in helping people find work that they're passionate about. So I'd work with people who are really miserable and out of work or doing work they didn't like, and common thread was loneliness. Really, a lot of people are really lonely And I suppose I've noticed that it's a generalization, but men perhaps find it harder to vocalize emotions more broadly. So I, yeah, part of my intention in thinking about men's circles and doing all that is really to address my own loneliness. I'm really, i like people and connections And and I also like it when, when people feel like they can be vulnerable. So the thought of men's circle, that's that's really, yeah, it's good stuff. Really It's creating a safe psychological space so that men can open up. So, yeah, i did, did have an experience with it years, years prior, which was really powerful. But yeah, you were going to ask something. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, it's just you mentioned. now you started something, and that's what I know is the men's circle at the World School Summit, like three and a half years ago. So what is it that you are doing now with it? 

Martin Cooke: Well, off the back of that, it's not. It's not so much that I started a men's circle or anything like that, but it was funny because we met in the October and then the big C arrived, the Corona thing. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, and a bit of background was I was traveling with my family, i've got four children, and we were traveling around Europe. We'd actually been traveling for about five years prior well, four years prior to that And it wasn't our intention to stop traveling, but it just so happened. Covid stopped us in our tracks. We were, we were traveling. People often ask about world schooling and travel and how do you fund it? What do you do in your work? And our line of work, if you like, was we rented out our house in Brighton, england, south coast of England, on Airbnb. So that's what we did, but we didn't do a normal version, we did the kind of supercharged version. So every weekend we had 14 women having a hen party, which like a bachelorette party, in our house, and of course, that stopped. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, and then COVID kind of stopped, that It kind of stopped that, and then I. 

Martin Cooke: Then we were thinking, oh God, i'm going to have to get a job. You know a job, right. But the actual how, how I got back into my line of work. It came about because of an intention that I had. I I, for a long time too, have been thinking about a podcast, and no doubt you guys weren't thinking about it. Just a few weeks ago It had been bubbling. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, it's been rolling around Yeah. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah Yeah. So it had been rolling around my head and I had the perfect person. I thought I'm going to interview this old dude. you know, he's in his late 70s and he's really into, really into smoking rollies, drinking wine, women and God He's like. he's a really perfect kind of like perfect. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, i look forward to listening to that. 

Martin Cooke: Exactly Yeah. So he's called Roger and I really I didn't actually know whether Roger was alive. So I called an old colleague and I thought I'll find out if Roger's alive. And this is literally when COVID starting. I'm like, oh, i'm going to have to get a job. I wasn't thinking about that. I was like I want to do a podcast And I called my old colleague and he picked up Martin. He said are you calling about the job? I said what job? He said your old job. We need someone Now. So within a week I had a laptop and I started back in my line of work through the. I like to think it's kind of serendipitous. I don't know, i was thinking about something joyful. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah. 

Martin Cooke: And the serendipitous thing came off the back of it. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah Well that's very often how it is. We have this saying what if it was easy? when things are like, if you have this, oh shit, i have to get a job, then nothing works. 

Martin Cooke: But if you're like, let's go do something fun, then suddenly someone's paying you money for doing it And yeah and it's just sunshine, and it's not all sunshine but it's easy, But goodness does flow, I think when you are fearless I wasn't fearful about getting a job, I thought I can just drive a van, I can do whatever, And I had had it in mind to go back to my previous work, which I really enjoyed. I really you know a bit of. It's interesting because I think when you, when you travel, like you know, people talk about identity and who are you and what do you do? You know that kind of quote. What do you do? Yeah, And part of most people's identity can be bound up in their work. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's a normal thing, but it is also to be fair what people do with their time. I mean, my answer would be I go for a long walk after lunch with my family. It's what I do And it's a weird answer to the question, but that's what I actually do. And when you ask more normal people, people living a more mainstream life than what they do, is they do what they do at their job because that's what they do most of the hours. So it's not like a fake identity or it's a real. it's real because that's really what you do. 

Martin Cooke: It holds. It holds you up, doesn't it? It's part of who you are, but it should. Yeah, yeah, it's a psychological. it's like if you pull that apart it's, it would be psychologically damaging in some cases. I think you know. 

Cecilie Conrad: But I think also it's real. If you go, get up every morning and you make bread and then you sell it, you're the baker and that's what you're actually doing. So, you're the one feeding the village or whatever the neighborhood, with bread and you, you, you, you identify with this. I'm the baker, because it's real, and I think this it can be a very fake idea to say, oh, you can't identify with your job, because then you don't know who you truly are And and maybe you truly are the baker, you know yeah yeah, i just think it's. 

Cecilie Conrad: Of course it's. It's. It's too bad if you know nothing else of yourself than the making bread part, the professional identity. But but it's not fake to identify with what you're doing all day. I don't think so, at least. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, it's interesting At the moment, all day I've stopped my work. Six months ago I stopped and I've switched with my wife And and now I'm full time with the kids. So I'm looking after feeding, cleaning, talking with, playing, with moving around the children. 

Cecilie Conrad: So interestingly, what is your answer? 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, well, that's what I need you to ask me what do I do? What? 

Cecilie Conrad: do, you do. 

Martin Cooke: What do I do? Well, i suppose it's I've got lots of different hats on at different parts of the day, but I was going to say I look after the children. But that doesn't really. They mostly look after themselves, right. 

Cecilie Conrad: They're big now they must be 12, 12, 9, 7 and 4. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, So yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: Four is not exactly big. 

Martin Cooke: No, no, but he's, yeah, he'll be big, But he's okay Yeah yeah, yeah. 

Martin Cooke: So yeah, carer, Yeah, carer, nurturer, questioner, i'm learning a lot as well. Actually It feels like I'm going back to school, but I don't mean to be all in the traditional sense, but so many questions come up from just. I was just reading a book with one of my children. It was about Faraday and Michael Faraday. What did he do? He was an inventor of I don't know. I got it wrong, he got it right. And then I was reading a book and he said what's the east Meaning the east? And then we got out the map and we started and he said, well, it's just one big country as we looked at Europe and Russia and all of that and all these squiggly lines that were made up, and it just so many questions and so interesting just being around children, if you allow the time and space for it, because they ask the most Kind of intelligent questions. 

Cecilie Conrad: They do. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: And our ageism, i think, is one of the big things we have to work with as unschoolers in our de-schooling process and our personal development as parents of three children. This I was just saying to, yes, but yesterday in the van we were driving, it was late and and our sons were playing a computer game and they read out loud These what is a tale bubble in English? 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: So when there is like subtitles, they read it out loud and they make voice acting. And our youngest is 11 and he read it out loud And I was just amazed by it because it's in English, which is not his first language. How he just reads it out loud, it's like nothing And he's even making the acting and it's hard words. It's not like Little Frog said hi, it's complicated stuff. This is an interesting game about psychology and it's like really complex. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: And I was amazed by it. And then I had to reflect on why am I so amazed by it? The kid has been speaking English for five years and he's doing this reading every day. Why am I amazed? I'm amazed because of his age. Would he have been 15? I would not be amazed. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: And this ageism thing. we have this idea that because they have this age, they're supposed to. you know, the questions cannot be intelligent from a four year old. That's what we think. Yeah, A broad up to think, And why not? 

Martin Cooke: They can be really profound because they're without, without looking through filters or lenses, aren't they? 

Cecilie Conrad: They can be even unsettling, Like yeah. 

Jesper Conrad: I'm going to answer this. Yeah, martin, i have a question for you, please. You've been a dad now for. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, it is Based on my age. Yeah, no, i've been at that now for many, many years. You've been for 12 years, yeah, and in my life I started out as the breadwinner a guy with a career and different hats on, and that was part of my identity. But my, what I get from you is that you and your wife have switched on being who is at home. So how have you been in your masculine role? Have you ever felt the need to be? oh, i have this title. Have you always been just cool with being a? hey, i must stay home, dad. This now. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, i feel, i feel like I've, perhaps unusually always been very comfortable in the feminine and and being around women I suppose I've been quite used to. I've got one younger sister I wasn't, you know, i wasn't the youngest of five with lots of older sisters But yeah, now I've never felt the kind of masculine or machismo like I'm the breadwinner kind of thing. I've always, i suppose I've always my wife works in in IT, you know, in data, and so she's always earned a decent wage And all the time we've been together I've worked for charities or or the NHS, that kind of thing. So I haven't earned as much. So I've been quite comfortable with that, i suppose. And yeah, i, i suppose I don't hang out with people with, with with men, like that Is the answer in part. So I don't feel it just feels kind of normal. Actually, one of my best friends, who I've known since I was five, he for the last four years has, or five years has been the primary care of his children And I've just moved moved house so I can walk to his house now And it's it just feels very normal. 

Martin Cooke: I mean, i am interested in the role of, of men in I'm in childbirth. I'm particularly fascinated by having worked in mental health. It kind of feels like adult mental health, kind of feels like it's almost too late. I'm fascinated how how the conditions under which, well, we're conceived and birthed and then nurtured and, you know, cared for in the sort of formative years. I find that really fascinating And I was present at all four of the births. They're all home births And the last two were actually free births. You'd call them So intentionally no, no midwives there. But I definitely brought fear into the room as the man and felt like I shouldn't be there. It felt like a sacred feminine thing And it feels like like it's more of a modern notion for men to be almost like a confusion that men should be there. I don't know if we looked at anthropologically whether men would have been there at the birth or whether it would have been mothers, aunties, other women like that. 

Cecilie Conrad: So so yeah, i have no idea actually how it looks like in no interest point of view, if there are any traditions anywhere. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, i just felt like I was interfering, like my, my partner had had it. You know, she was there in her strength, in her feminine energy, and I wasn't going to really bring much to the party apart from a cold towel and a glass of water. 

Cecilie Conrad: I want me to share the stories of how I guess we're really supported. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, I was there. No, i was good at it, i was. 

Cecilie Conrad: I'm not going to share that. 

Martin Cooke: I was. I was told that I was just kind of not getting in the way, but you know she didn't need me, which is, i think that's amazing. You know, that's the feminine strength and energy in light. I think that's absolutely. 

Cecilie Conrad: She have like a sister or friend or no, she, she's quite independent. She did it, yeah, but you know, maybe she would like to have a sister in the room or. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, well, interestingly, yeah, she hasn't got a sister And she recently said it would be really nice to have a sister to understand. Yeah, understand each other. Yeah, have you got a sister? 

Cecilie Conrad: I've got three. 

Martin Cooke: Have you OK. 

Cecilie Conrad: Well, it's complicated Because of an early divorce. I have like step and half and yeah, so maybe I only have two, depends on how you look at it. I have two that I'm really close with and feels like since this, and I also have just as many brothers, so I'm like big family Less? Yeah, well, it's two families. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: Because my parents. They were divorced when I was four or five and they found the right one right after and both of them married more children. So they found someone who also had children. So when very early in my life I had all these siblings, or half siblings, or I just call them siblings And then my mother and her new husband got one more child So I have like one, well, i don't really care about the whole gene thing, it's more about the feeling Yeah, and some feel more like siblings with another. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, I would love to return to the masculinity part, and I am a very pink kind of guy, love colors and I'm very happy with flowers. I love to run over to flowers and smell them. 

Cecilie Conrad: But if you just look at me then you are like very, very fascinated by romantic movies. Oh yes, I like romantic movies and everything. Stay awake. 

Jesper Conrad: But if you just look at me and I wasn't smiling, you're due to my size But think, oh, that's kind of a man's man, but I'm very little a man's man. So back to this circle. We had on the World Schooling Summit And we were sitting and talking about some of our vulnerabilities, and one of mine. Back then we still had an idea if we should drive in the big red bus we had. I talked and I was like, but I'm so afraid that it will break down. And that was. And I mentioned in this circle that I was really fascinated by men who, you know, can fix an engine. For me that's like magic. I don't know how they do it, but I'm very impressed. 

Martin Cooke: Me too. It's incredible. It's like witchcraft Yeah. 

Jesper Conrad: And they got grease on the hands and sweaty and sexy and all that. No, but it's fascinating for me that they know how it works and how it fits together. And I talked with one of the guys in the circle about how I was afraid to even touch my engine on this big red bus we had And he said something to me we have used as an advice later. He said don't worry, you cannot fuck it up as much as a professional cannot fix it later on. Right? 

Cecilie Conrad: Well, you can, we say it nicer. We say it nicer, you say, you can't break it so much, no one can fix it. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: So you know, if it's broken already you can give it a go, and then if it still doesn't work, well, it didn't work to begin with, And then you call the mechanic. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, and then you actually use that and then have changed something on the big old machine and try to do it myself. I'm still afraid of it, but trying to do it was a nice accomplishment to remove the fear of breaking everything. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: How is this? you know, how is it? Because you started this out as a masculinity question, and what I think is it would be very healthy for you to let go of the idea that a real man should be able to fix the motor. I mean, let's just call the mechanic and not waste our time because we don't know what we're doing. I don't know what you don't know. It would be really feminine to know about, i don't know, fashion or nail polish, some things I don't know. you know and you be you and I'd be me. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, but it's kind of. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's like it's two things. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, But it's put down the true. I've been programmed by society to think that men should be able to fix stuff. When I was young. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, yeah, and I think it's a really important observation that society well thinks that it's a masculine thing and it shouldn't be that. Should it? It shouldn't be at all. It's not a gendered thing. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's statistically more men are interested in motors than women. So I think it comes from that. But that doesn't mean that all men are interested in motors and it definitely doesn't mean that all men are able to fix one. 

Martin Cooke: No, It's comparable with motors and DIY and things like that. And we've just bought a new house and it's really old and everything's broken. All the windows are rotting, it needs just had a new boiler. We've got a digger out the back, we're having an extension built and I would love to get involved and do things. And I changed the lock on a shed last week and I thought yes, i'm doing it, it's in the rain, i've got the wrong drill. And then I triumphantly closed it and realized that I'd managed to screw it in wrong, so it's permanently locked again, even without a lock. I'm just so terrible at DIY, so I was telling the builders just yesterday. I said I'm telling this story And I'm kind to myself now, definitely, but it's been a long journey of realizing that it's not so much. Yeah, we can't be good at everything, can we? 

Cecilie Conrad: I've realized with all these DIY things that well, we talk about all this maintaining the house and fixing the motor. It's an education. And we should really value that. 

Cecilie Conrad: I'm loving it Some people don't have it If you don't have the education. None of us have had any interest in building tables or fixing motions in our lives And we're closing in on 50 now. I mean maybe we should just face it. Other people do that And we have other stuff that we're good at because we've been interesting in it and been doing it all of our lives. You can't just build a drawer out of nowhere. People who do that, they have learned from someone and they've spent a lot of time learning. 

Cecilie Conrad: And that comes back to the whole education question, where we have this traditional, very wrong idea that academics are high ranking. That's what takes some intelligence and hard work and all the things you do with your hands. it's more like you know anyone can do that and it doesn't really matter. We're losing respect to people who can do something that we all three can't do, and we really need people who can do it. 

Martin Cooke: I have a lot of respect for people who can do things that are practical and indeed we've actually consciously moved so as to be closer to a place that we're quite heavily involved in, local to us in East Sussex, the county of East Sussex, It's called Wilderness Woods so it's a wood. 

Martin Cooke: That was bought about 10 years ago by a couple who were travelling around Europe looking for a place of land to be with their children and she's interested in alternative education and what happens. There are there about 30 young people who live there and work there for free, so that like woofing. So they live on the land and they volunteer some of their time, but they also make things there, so they make the drawer, the table, there's a potter, there's people that cook and it's a community and our children have lessons there. So my daughter now is just doing green woodworking, so she's learning practical skills Lovely, which is so nice. And I was just going to say I think as a child it depends on what you experience. Right is what you're around. I didn't have people that I was around that were showing me things. I mean, my dad did oversee building a house. He managed the whole thing. He wasn't laying the bricks, but I was around that. So that did give me a kind of it has given me the desire to want to do that myself. I have this desire to want to build something. The next thing out the back that we're building is a small version, maybe in 20 years time, charlie and I and my wife will build a little place in Scotland probably my ancestry Scottish. So I like the idea of somewhere wild, with a fire, very warm, enclosed, and I'll be involved in building it somehow. But I know that I'm not going to be a builder and that's fine. That's fine. I was actually invited. 

Martin Cooke: I studied psychotherapy and perhaps like lots of people who study psychotherapy, when you train as a psychotherapist you have to be in therapy yourself, and I couldn't just give myself permission just to go into therapy. It was a legitimate thing. I had to do it. So I spent many years in therapy and I remember early on feeling very upset about the fact that I couldn't change a lock or do anything. You know, crying about it being really like why am I such a failure? The therapist he just gave me permission. He just said you can't be good at everything. That's why we all do different things. You're really good at these things, just pay someone to do that. 

Cecilie Conrad: Exactly. 

Martin Cooke: It was like oh it just. It just gave me the permission to be kind to myself and to realize that we're not good at everything. 

Cecilie Conrad: No, we don't have to. 

Jesper Conrad: Martin, how did you get into the whole traveling with your kids and alternative education? because you have kind of stepped a lot outside the normal road from. That is otherwise people travel. 

Martin Cooke: I'll. So if I start, i'm about 14, 15. I've all my, all my family work in it. I see the trappings. I think money I want to BMW, i'm going to study it. So off, i go to university, i've got my grades, i've been a good boy, i've been educated, but really I know nothing. It's all gone in here and out here. I've remembered it And I traveled for the first time when I left university Actually, no, it was in a placement. I went to America and I was caught up in 9-11. actually, i was in Washington when the planes hit and I'm really passionate about photography. So photography gave me a reason to travel, really gave me something to do. You know when people say what are you doing? on traveling, i needed, i needed the more permission to be traveling in a valid way. I couldn't just be, as you said, going for a long walk after lunch. That'd be too indulgent. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, that is actually what. 

Cecilie Conrad: I'm doing. 

Martin Cooke: Exactly Good for you. You know that's loving, nurturing, and the ripple effect of that, it just goes out into the universe, doesn't it? 

Cecilie Conrad: It does, and I would continue the story. 

Martin Cooke: you were Yeah, i needed photography to allow myself just to be, just to come like a, i suppose, like a butterfly comes out of the chrysalis. You know, i was like the caterpillar, all trapped at university, thinking I hate this, i just don't want to do it. I doesn't, it doesn't, i'm not very good at it and it doesn't feed my soul with anything. No, and I was really confused about the money side of things as well. I saw all the money by kind of new internally. So it was a conflict and and so traveling and just being still with no purpose, this is when I'm 21, 22, 23. It really was the first opportunity to sit in that stillness and kind of find myself. and I went when I was 23. I went on this charity expedition called Rally International. It's a charity in the UK and they run adventure projects and community projects around the world. So I went to Borneo for three months and it was a really, really formative experience. 

Martin Cooke: I was 23 and most of the people there were 17, 18. So I guess I was an elder amongst the younger ones and it was there that I found my vocation really, which was, you know, we'd be on a building site in the rainforest building this library and all these kind of 17, 18 roles who were off to university. I really identified with them because I'd kind of been there and I just found myself listening to a lot of them and I just really enjoyed that kind of listening role. And I guess I always think about jobs in terms of the village. You know, what would we have done? There would have been a baker, wouldn't there? And then there'd be a magician, and then there'd have been the woodworker and the this and then that. And I think my role, what do I do? I'm a listener and I'm a connector. I really love to connect people up and join the dots between people. So, yeah, i really enjoyed listening to young people and I came back with the passion for photography and almost immediately I said, right, i want to go and be staff for this charity, i want to go and volunteer again, but as running the project. 

Martin Cooke: And so I went back as a staff photographer in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and I was. I was given a land rover and my camera and they said go off and photograph the two countries. And that was for three months and it was amazing, you know, getting getting stuck, you know, in the land rover down swampy lanes and getting towed out, and just stories abound, experiences. And that's where I met my wife. So day one, i'm photographing everyone getting off the bus for a little ID card and Charlie walks off and she just quit her job six months prior, had been traveling around Asia and was doing this thing, and we met and we traveled. 

Martin Cooke: Afterwards, charlie and I met traveling. So that was, i suppose, both of our DNA. We got traveling and it wasn't a conscious thing to travel with our children, but sometimes life has to get tough to, or rather, we consciously or subconsciously engineer the conditions to make our life more difficult in order to push or guide ourselves towards our true path. So so we were living in London, we were visiting Brighton every weekend. Brighton's great, it's on the south coast, it's a great city. Why do we move this? We moved there, but I was still working in London, commuting, you know, two hours each way. 

Cecilie Conrad: Oh shit. 

Martin Cooke: Right. So you've got a three year old and you've got a little 18 month year old. And Charlie looks at me and she said what are we doing? Why? Why are we doing this? But we made it difficult and then we had to think right, we need to improve this situation. What can we do? And she said we could rent our house out and go traveling. I said are you mad? Like you know, like what? It's not a story we've had. Right, yeah, yeah, are you mad Chaining conversation. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, i'm definitely so. Charlie's like the visionary, like anything's possible, and I'm I'm sort of not, but I'll go along for the ride Once. Once I'm in it, i'm like I'm there. So she said I'm sort of coming up with problems like how will we afford to travel? Right, you know, we'll rent our house out. And I said, but it'll only just cover the bills and the mortgage. She said no, no, no, we'll rent our house out to holiday makers because they come to Brighton all year round. It's very, very busy. And I said, okay, all right, get the person round, we'll find out how much money we could get. And it was like, let's say it was 2000, 3000 pounds a month. It still wasn't enough to travel. I thought, well, no. So she says I've got this man who's coming around. He does hen parties, and have you heard of hen? 

Cecilie Conrad: party or a batch, yeah, yeah, i know what it is. 

Martin Cooke: Right. So yeah, it's basically a massive raucous party where you know like the caricature of it is women walking around with like learner plates on and short skirts and being loud and all that kind of thing, letting their head down. And then Charlie said there's this guy coming who doesn't do holiday homes. He does holiday homes just for hen parties. I said no way, no way, what Like? and at the time I felt it'd be like eight women because we only had a three bedroom house. It was quite tall and thin. But he arrives and he's a geezer. He was, like you know, in his flash car and he starts walking around our house and I'd already decided no way, he's counting people. He's looking at the floor and going two, four, eight, and I was like, what's he doing? He's counting how many women he can fit in our house, and 14 was the number. And we did it. We did it. We went with hen man, as he was called. We did that for a year And he didn't pay us on time. 

Martin Cooke: The house was a state when we got back from our first travels, which was we went to Southeast Asia, So we had friends in Bangkok, soft landing, and then we went up through Thailand and Cambodia. And then we were in Bali for two months. We stayed in a beautiful we just just through connections, facebook, you know we found this lovely, lovely guy who was traveling back to the States and he sublet his basically a bamboo house open. You know snakes and monkeys in Bali And we were there for a couple of months. It was amazing, but it was also hard. I think it's really important, as you, as I think you said, you got ill on the road recently, right, and I think this is, and I've totally been there. You know, anyone who's traveled for any length of time is going to get ill. 

Cecilie Conrad: It happens sometimes. It does happen, i realize this virus we had was actually all over Sicily. Right, yes It was just because, you know, at the moment there's this virus around and we get it as well. Yeah, Yeah. 

Martin Cooke: But there's a kind of duality to to, to everything, like people think, oh, you're traveling, you're having like your best life, and it's like, no, we're just living, like we're trying to live our best life, And our premise is different because it's not in one place, it's not a house And the advantages are quite obvious. 

Cecilie Conrad: I mean, i've just been walking alongside blossoming trees, almond trees, looking at the snow at the top of the mountains here in Italy this morning with my teenage daughter. It was beautiful, but, but yesterday, you know, we were just roaming around looking for a place to park our van with some weird it's not always amazing. Amazing, it's easy to describe and it's easy to take pictures of, but the real life that we bring, and maybe we could call it obstacles or disadvantages, they're a little harder to describe. 

Martin Cooke: But photographs are nice. You know, i I felt really conscious when we traveled. you know, charlie said, oh, we can, we can have a better income traveling because we'll do a blog, we'll be vloggers and things like that. And I just kind of felt like that wasn't the thing, because it it wouldn't allow us to show a balanced or I don't know how many well, some vloggers do. but I did a very small photo stream just for an extended group of family and friends and I would take pictures of we like when we were in Bali, we went to New Zealand and we bought a van in New Zealand. It was an old VW Westphalia pop top. It was really, really cool And I know that one you know that one. 

Martin Cooke: You know it was brown, with the checkered, the checkered, beautiful. Yeah, it was beautiful. And it was left and drive. And it was Yeah, And everybody my friend, tim, who lived there he said you really shouldn't buy this van because it's a Volkswagen and all the parts come from Europe and we're here right next to Japan. 

Martin Cooke: You should buy a Toyota. But there wasn't. There was a romance, you know. we wanted the van, the van turned up, it had a lovely story, and so I drive the van six hours back, flew and then I drive it back and we put all our savings, so we put like 8000 pounds of savings into the van to live in And I drive it back six hours and Tim, and it was like this, it's like mountains of New Zealand, and he said it's an old van, it was like 38 years old or ever old it was. 

Martin Cooke: He's like you've got to take it easy, just do like 50 miles an hour, stop every couple of hours, check the van. I was too excited. I just drove at like 65 miles an hour, flat out, triumphantly, came home with the van And then the next day I drove into town, i park up and it's rear engine water cooled water, cooled vehicle. Park up All water, pissing out the back of the van. I was oh, what have I done? I've ruined. We're going to live in it. It's too expensive to live in New Zealand and we have to be in a van. 

Martin Cooke: You know, we haven't got the money coming in from the, from the hen henhouse In my head we're screwed. I've made the biggest mistake of my life. It's awful, and and so what happens? of course, when you take a risk, you get rewarded. And we, i start ringing around. I was like, right, i need the VW Owners Club for New Zealand. And I start speaking to all these old dudes on the phone And this name kept coming up. Oh, you want to speak to this guy called Marty. 

Martin Cooke: He lives in Blar and I look where Blar is and it's 10 miles away from where we're staying on a farm with our friends, and it turns out this guy's got six of them in his garden. He's an aircraft engineer. What he doesn't know about this particular model like he's like the best of the best And he spends the next two weeks every evening with me. He's working during the day. Every evening I camp in his garden in the thing. He's showing me how to, how to fit a new cam belt and I'm just kind of nodding just because he's like. He's like you'll need these tools. So I like buy the tools, thinking I'll never use these like it. 

Martin Cooke: But he was, he was really, and what a beautiful man. He really wanted to make sure that the engine didn't crap out on us as he described it. I don't want it to crap out on you, but he wanted us to see his country that he was really proud of, and he was just a really beautiful human being and I'll never forget his kindness and love in doing that And it really yeah, that was. The van was perfect from that day onwards and the whole engine could have blown up. If all the water had gone, it would have exploded Yeah all gone. 

Cecilie Conrad: I like that one when you take a risk, you get rewarded. We really, we really. Every time we've been in these, it really resonates with me this you know, now everything is falling apart, this feeling something happens and you're like, okay, this is the end of the road. Then something happens. Yeah, always something happens. 

Martin Cooke: There's always someone to help, like right, like totally, like next to you then you can't be tough with it like you've got to be vulnerable with it and you've got to surrender. And it's like you've got to let the love in Right. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, like you know, had a flat tire and the story is the exact same. 

Martin Cooke: Really. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, we had a flat tire in Sicily Right And first day it was raining but we got a warning sign so we drove in, parked under so we wouldn't get wet And like but the thing that happened was first we tried with all the insurance and calling and handling it ourselves. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, because actually there was a guy coming Like should he help us? and we were like, no, no, no, we'll figure it out. And then, after like 20 minutes of phone calls and WhatsApp, and what have you? I said to this rescue lady on the phone who couldn't like understand the address, and I told her you know, i'll call you back. And then I went and talked to that guy who wanted to help us. He was right there. He was still right there And said, you know, in my Italian Yeah, don't speak. Thank you very much, i would like to receive your help. And from that moment it was like this and we had new tires and fresh coffee. 

Martin Cooke: Everything, but you've consciously chosen to take yourself out of your comfort zone, exactly By saying goodbye to traditional life, and I think that's where the, that's where the. I love the film The Matrix. You know, the Matrix perfectly describes for me the conditioning and the world that most people are living in. And when you, when you can see The Matrix and you consciously choose to, to uncouple from it, life does become more difficult on many levels, but it's also not difficult, it's almost as it should be. It's, you know. 

Cecilie Conrad: The first guy who showed up to help us the first time, or maybe it was the second, one of the first times the big red bus broke when we were traveling. Yeah, one of the first guys who, of course there was a mechanic right across the street who could fix an old timer, of course, and he came to help us And this little part that you know hasn't been in production for 35 years, somehow he managed to replace it. 

Cecilie Conrad: Or to fix it or whatever. And when he left I noticed on the sleeve of his t-shirt it said Angel. It did It's like okay. okay, you know you're talking to me and I'll try to like adjust the listening device. 

Martin Cooke: So let's talk about what this is then. Would people have people ever described you as lucky? Oh, yeah, right I think this is fascinating, right? So the extent to which you feel, or one feels, that you can make your own luck There's. I personally believe you can make your own luck, i mean, but just because I've had a lot of lived experience of having these lucky connections or you know what people would perceive as very fortunate, But I think it's when you're on in a flow state and on the right path. 

Martin Cooke: things just kind of come to you, don't they? 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, luck. 

Martin Cooke: So how can we share how to increase your luck? 

Jesper Conrad: We have a friend called Chris. 

Martin Cooke: It's complicated, okay, we won't go there. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's too good. I love complicated. I'm just not going to do it like a one-tweetable sentence. 

Jesper Conrad: No, but our friend Chris has a nice saying, and it is about being in tune with the universe. 

Cecilie Conrad: Is it the intention? attention, no tension. 

Jesper Conrad: That is also good. That's not that one I was thinking about. 

Cecilie Conrad: That's a good general rule, that to be aware of your intention like what is it? What kind of life do you want? What kind of emotions do you need to like get rid of, or what? 

Martin Cooke: is it? 

Cecilie Conrad: We're looking for it to be intentional and to be able to describe it quite clearly, to know what sounds wrong. If I say to know what you want, because that could be like I want to be in BMW or whatever. It's more like it's a more emotional thing. 

Martin Cooke: What is your heart desire? 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, and how do I want to feel? It's not about what do I want to have. So that's the intention. And then there's the attention. You have to be. You know, you don't have to take it when it comes. You have to be ready to be, you know. Oh, that's where it is. 

Martin Cooke: It's like perhaps I've never surfed but it's perhaps like watching the wave and knowing like I want that big wave and it's having the attention to see that it's coming. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, but you have to look at the ocean if you want that big wave. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, otherwise no. If it's there, you have to. So that's the attention, and then there's the no tension, which is the hard part, i think, is to let go of the whole thing Like I'm okay, either way, i'm happy. Oh, is it the this or something better you wanted to? know, No, no, no because that's actually the no tension is. You know, I'm happy with this, or it could be something better. 

Martin Cooke: Is it no attention or no tension? 

Cecilie Conrad: No tension. 

Martin Cooke: Right, So so intention. 

Cecilie Conrad: You start with intention, you continue with attention, you do your part and you're sure that you're looking at the ocean If it's the way you're looking for, and then you have no tension, you're not, like, very attached to the idea that it has to be right now, it has to be perfect, or it has to be in this special way or has to happen. If it's not happening, i'm not doing it right. Chill. 

Jesper Conrad: Your attention will be in the piece. You'd say the universe kind of yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: You call it being in the flow state. 

Martin Cooke: Or without narratives. I use the word narratives quite a lot when I'm working with people. They will use language about themselves, like I'm not good at this, or I should do this, or I should do that. And being aware of what your narratives are because the narratives are quite powerful They can have quite a powerful hold over you, i think, and that can get in the way of the universe sorting things out beautifully for you. 

Cecilie Conrad: It can get in the way of your luck, it can get in the way of your attention because your narrative actually is the filter that you look at the world, so you can't actually see it when it happens If you have the wrong quote unquote narrative going on. 

Jesper Conrad: We actually have a thing that is down the same line, which we call when you do what is difficult, life becomes easy. And sometimes we take it when we are super hungry and we live on this vegan gluten free diet On the road and it's super hard, but then you go into a supermarket and if you are into organic produce, then it's very easy. 

Cecilie Conrad: You don't have to buy the five things they have, and then you eat them. 

Jesper Conrad: And then you walk out of the supermarket. It's actually kind of easy. You need to stand on all these hundreds and hundreds of things that are in a supermarket. It's like, okay, these three That we go. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's a very simple example of if you do what is hard, your life becomes easy, and it's also what you describe, this process of actually making things very complex. And sometimes you know you ended your story at Bali, i think, in a accommodation, maybe not perfect, beautiful and adventurous and lovely to share stories about afterwards, but maybe it was no fun actually living there. 

Martin Cooke: No, it was absolutely So. We were in this hut. It wasn't a hut, It was enclosed in three bedrooms, upstairs and then downstairs. Traditional Balinese just told floor and out into the garden And I pretty much went mad there. So you know, like if I was on Instagram, it would look amazing. 

Martin Cooke: Like it would look amazing, but the reality was that it was amazing. You know we'd get this, take out, delicious food would come. This little man would come down the gate, was in the middle of nowhere, backing onto this jungle, and he would shout Bali, buddha, and bring this. You know, beautiful salad every evening for no money. And you know there was a cleaner and she was sweet and it was all like really nice and I got a little car, hired a car, and we drive to this drumming circle and it was. It was like really great and everyone who would have heard about it would have heard all the way. But the thing that made me go mad with the ants I don't know if you've seen Asia, but like imagine you've got two children right and they're eating a bit of bread or a bit of porridge in the morning, and if you didn't clean every single little crumb second in the second it drops, touches the floor. 

Cecilie Conrad: You remove it. 

Martin Cooke: You've got like a whole motorway of ants. I'd come down in the morning and I'd be sweeping them up and I was just kind of going mad with it and Charlie didn't care. She was like you, just sweeten up, who cares? Whereas in my head it was and it's really, it was really interesting. I almost it was like I started meditating upon it. What is it the answer, trying to tell me like and they, I think in retrospect they were trying to tell me here we go. You cannot control life. It's an illusion to think that you're in control of anything and surrender is key. And he's me. 

Martin Cooke: Here's me trying to change the jungle. I'm living in the jungle. Even if I had walls and doors, they'd have been underneath anyway. 

Jesper Conrad: Oh yeah. 

Martin Cooke: And here's me trying to like sweep up every evening rather than do some yoga. I'd be like downstairs for an hour like cleaning everything, and and so I think the lesson there was that you will go mad if you try and control the ants everything. 

Cecilie Conrad: And it is this like the narrative she described before. You had this narrative or this idea that ants equals not clean or not looking good enough after your family, or something I was being invaded. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, I was having dreams about them. It's horrible. 

Cecilie Conrad: But you have to remove that idea. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: To surrender to the jungle, and it was an happiness that was readily available. 

Martin Cooke: It's only when it's only almost right towards the end of something that I realized. You know, it's like when it's ending I can see the beauty in it, and and when I've left, you know. So, yeah, so many good thing. 

Cecilie Conrad: I mean, maybe we take with us the good memories. Yeah, as long as I hope you can see some beauty while it's gone And the lessons, the lessons learned throughout it. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, we actually returned to New Zealand Two years after that and and had the same experience of buying a van, But this time with less money in the bank and another child. So you know we needed a bigger and better van, and what we got was a smaller and worse van. If anybody's in the market for a smaller and worse van, it's the Mazda bongo with the pop top. Don't get it. 

Jesper Conrad: We've got. But, martin, about your, your kids and schooling. Why haven't you just sent them to school? Why not choose the normal way of doing things? 

Martin Cooke: I like to think about first principles and what does success look like? Right, and the first, the most important question, i think for me is what is what is the life well lived? How do you live well? And so I suppose in part, schooling has come about as a result of my in a substandard school experience. I wasn't very happy at school. Not, i was depressed, but I just didn't. You know, i was not in with the cool crowd, i didn't. I wasn't like on all the football teams, having having my best life. 

Martin Cooke: You get some children and they seem to really thrive in schools, in that environment And that's great. But I was quite shy and I was quite academic, but I certainly struggled in some subjects And so I think I've carried that through that, that kind of belief that it wasn't great And and and we didn't feel like our first child was ready, not that she was ready. In the UK You're in school at four years old, way too early And we looked at, we looked around and you can see that obviously in Europe there are countries where it's six or seven And we just like arbitrary numbers, like you were saying you know we're, you're ready now, you're four, just like they say, right, you're ready Another kind of ageism. 

Cecilie Conrad: Exactly You should have given up after 40 weeks, you know. 

Martin Cooke: So that's the gestation period, but in other countries it's 39 weeks. So you're late, you know. So we're going to inject you full of drugs and force the child out of you. So there's. So I suppose it feeds into questioning systems, and so first hand experience and then questioning systems of kind of control and power, and also asking, looking forward. So I suppose, like thinking, consciously thinking what are the skills that are going to be required to thrive in life? And for me that's emotion, like grounded emotion, being able to express your emotions and feeling like you have choice and autonomy, because we assume that most adults do, and yet we somehow feel that it's okay to essentially imprison children from the age of four with no choice. Oh, you're enjoying art. Next, next lesson You know I remember school. 

Martin Cooke: We, we had an activity week at school where if you had money you'd go off skiing, and we didn't have money that year. So I spent a week in the art class, but usually art was half an hour and then. So I thought I was terrible at art. I loved it for a whole week. I could just get in really into something so I could deep dive and I really enjoyed that. I really remember it. So the feeling that you don't get the opportunity to deep dive and follow your interests, and so that's kind of how we've got to home education. 

Martin Cooke: I wouldn't call it unschooling. There's definitely a. It's not. It's always on my mind, perhaps more so my wife's mind. That is the tension between getting some grades that are going to be useful to open up doors. If you did want to go on and get a degree as an architect, or if you wanted to, yeah, whatever you want to do. So there's a tension between, like, not doing any exams or doing some exams, and so I'm tasked with the laptop. Is is propped on a book here. I thought I'd prop it on this book so I could mention it and not really teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons. That's the book that's under the laptop now And thinking about what is my role. 

Martin Cooke: I'm here to teach them how to read and maths, i'm getting into maths. Even with the kind of nine year old to use these labels. It's difficult for me. I'm back to school. Can I do it? I have to do everything. At the woods There's a math teacher. I can outsource bits of it. It's kind of I think the don't they say a child needs, or we all need a village. You know it takes a village to raise a man, right? I'm not good at everything And that's why I want my children to be surrounded by happy, grounded adults and children of all ages who are kind of Yeah, i want to go to that forest, yeah, yeah, it's really nice, it's super cool. 

Martin Cooke: It's really, it's really great And the people that run it are really. they say yes And they say yeah. like I've just set up on a Sunday, something called Sunday sessions with somebody who lives there. She's got this health heart and we're running a circle where people can just come in and we're just kind of shaping it. However, the people that turn up do it right. So they said yes. to my friend here who wanted to set up a food business, they said, yeah, just test it out, you know, because they know how important it is for people to do stuff they're passionate about. So so I think back to your question, which was how come home school didn't choose school? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it's broken as a system. I think it serves to. it serves the few you know and it's it's yeah a form of imprisonment. that is most extreme, or you know, I totally agree. 

Cecilie Conrad: I don't find it extreme. It is a prison. Yeah, it is a prison. 

Martin Cooke: And so, yeah, I'm, I'm interested in, in nurturing free thinking individuals who have autonomy over their own minds and bodies and how they choose. And I'm not perfect, I'm, you know, none of us are. We're not, you know, like I suppose you might say you'll be judged on your results, you know, but defined success Right. 

Cecilie Conrad: And it's not fun for a child to be your result. 

Martin Cooke: Right Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: I mean I should be able to define myself and judge myself and let myself be judged on who I am, and that's a really good point on what they are capable of. 

Martin Cooke: But I think there's a really big culture of of how, how your kids are doing. You know so. Oh my, my children have got these grades. They're off to this university. 

Cecilie Conrad: My son's a doctor. Yeah, and good on him. 

Martin Cooke: Is he happy? Are you happy? 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah. 

Martin Cooke: How do you live? 

Cecilie Conrad: well, How's your relation with that son? 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: Can I? I'm sitting on something Can I give you. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, please. Well, again one piece of advice on the reading thing, the reading thing. 

Cecilie Conrad: I'm very passionate about it because it took me forever to learn how to teach kids to read. 

Martin Cooke: Oh, yeah, yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: And my best advice is this Don't do it Right, please. You read them stories because you like stories. You read books yourself because you want to read the book. Reading is a culture, but do not teach the children And they learn like this. It's crazy. I've seen it in real life I wouldn't believe it We had in our stories. As home educators, we had a great failure with our first Right, Oh yeah. Huge like in shit. 

Jesper Conrad: He got stubborn and didn't want to learn to read. 

Cecilie Conrad: Got angry and decided that he would never learn to read. Yeah, and what will we do about it? And well, basically, he finally decided to learn to read. And then he learned, but it was not because I was helping him, it was his decision, and he was, i think, 13 at the time he decided, and it was because there was this book he wanted to read. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: He was listening to audio books because he couldn't read and he didn't mind And he had decided never to learn to read, and because we had pushed him in the wrong way. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: And he was not at the wrong time in the wrong context, and he decided to learn to read as when he was 13, because there was this audio book and book two was not available as audio. Yeah, and the thing was it was not even translated into Danish and the book was so interesting He decided I need to learn to speak English and I need to learn to read a book. So he did, and he did it in like two months, yeah, and he could hardly read his own name. 

Martin Cooke: Can I ask you a question, then? Where did your motivation to, let's say, push or to get him to, where was that coming from? 

Jesper Conrad: From me and society. Yeah, right, yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: No, actually first it because we have a 23 year old, and so this first I'm talking about is the first home educated child who is now 17. I was 23 year old. He was in a free school in Copenhagen very, very free and lovely school And we thought our second child would be in that school. Yeah, so, closing in on the time that he would start in school, i realized that he was. He's a very spiritual child, very highly sensitive, very much himself. He's not weak, it's not weakness, it's just he's in his own state And I thought learning to read plus learning to be in school will be too much for him. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: So I'll teach him to read before he starts. And the context of that is that me and my siblings all learned to read when we were four or five years old, and our oldest child learned to read when she was five. So for me it was not a thing. in Denmark You start when you're six. So when he was five, I thought, okay, I'll just, you know, teach him to read. It'll take me like two weeks and that's it. So he got annoyed with that. And then, when he didn't start schooling, Jesper said that okay, you can homeschool, but then he has to learn to read. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, so I knew. If I'm not too much, it's the anxiety, you know, of other people's judgment on you when you do something that is out of the ordinary, when you homeschool, it's like, ooh, what would people think? 

Cecilie Conrad: So you wanted them to like, would the neighbors see kind of a feeling inside. 

Martin Cooke: Absolutely. And what's interesting also is when couples, when we come together and we have, we come at it from slightly different angles or we come at it with our own stuff, don't we? And? 

Cecilie Conrad: obviously, obviously, and you have, I'm not very nice, to be honest. I'm like so much. 

Martin Cooke: Come on. 

Jesper Conrad: I'm not nice. 

Cecilie Conrad: I'm not. 

Jesper Conrad: She's very nice but powerful. 

Cecilie Conrad: But I'm not compliant and I'm not like going to obey things to be nice. I'm nice because I like people and I like to be in a state of love and compassion and taking care of each other. But I'm not nice in order to be nice or to be perceived as nice, And that way I'm not nice. I do my thing and there is nothing that will stop me And that's why I call me myself an anarchist, because I will never a rule will not stop me from doing what I believe is right. I just know this And he's very nice. My husband is a very nice guy. He wants everybody to feel good And if that he's just, he's very nice. And I think that's the very big difference in that situation. When we started to homeschool, I wouldn't care less what the world around me would think about the situation, but he was kind of not afraid. 

Cecilie Conrad: You wouldn't bother to feel safe. 

Jesper Conrad: Also the one being helping the world gives another pressure on you when you go to work and you meet people and they're like, oh, you're homeschool. But the first question you get is can the read and the write? Well, it's a little different pressure when you are at home with the children, of course. 

Cecilie Conrad: But then, okay, I'm just trying to interfere with your reading process with your children. 

Martin Cooke: actually, Yeah, you're a disruptor. 

Cecilie Conrad: I like this. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: I'm just saying like in my personal experience as a home educator, once I let go of this teaching them how to read, they learned to read so smoothly The two last ones, so the third child. She learned to read while I was trying to teach the other one to read. 

Cecilie Conrad: She got interested and she could read when she was four And she read her first full novel when she was like six or seven And she did it on her own. I didn't even teach her the alphabet. I mean, i answered the questions when she asked me something, but it was not a teaching situation and I had no agenda. And my fourth child he learned to read when he was eight And I got a little butterflies in the stomach there because I was like is this another? 

Cecilie Conrad: late reader Because I'm okay with it, but it's a little complicated with the world. It is complicated with people around you. When you're in school, you live in a bus and walk barefoot and then the kids can't read Can get you into trouble. So we were observing the situation with some emotion involved, but what happened was that he started reading in three languages, so once he started he could read in English, danish and Spanish, which is not the same system. 

Jesper Conrad: So it took longer time. 

Cecilie Conrad: So obviously it took longer time And now he's the one I described yesterday, reading out loud, doing voice, acting in his second language, and what my point is, it's like teaching them to walk. You don't teach your children to walk. You hold their hand for a while. If they stretch out their arm, hopefully. 

Martin Cooke: And they see you walking and they observe. 

Cecilie Conrad: They see you walk, everybody's walking, so they walk. At some point They get up and walk, and because we live in a culture of text and written language and books, and also on the computer, the internet, everything there's so much text everywhere they learn to read And the lessons are not helping. That's my point. 

Martin Cooke: The lessons are not helping. 

Cecilie Conrad: The lessons are making the kids feel stupid, whereas put them on your lap and read them a good story That makes them feel loved and that reading is something amazing. And then suddenly they can read. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, that sounds good to me. I think my wife has more of the judgment when you were talking about. It's the judgment of others And I give less of a shit, but I'm still. I'm probably in between the two of you or where you both were. 

Jesper Conrad: But it is a difficult thing that I think all of us need to face, and when you choose a life different than what is the norm, then you are more aware of that. Oh, am I doing this because of what other people would say or think about me? 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, Yeah, what's driving the? yeah, you must be able to do this by this age. 

Cecilie Conrad: That's how we started identifying as unschoolers, because we realized that all the quote unquote teaching we did We actually did it because we were afraid of the system, the school system that would come and check on us. 

Jesper Conrad: It's the same in the UK. 

Cecilie Conrad: But my figure And families, mother-in-laws, mothers. I was not afraid of your mother. No, no, no, no I was afraid, because they have real power. They could actually interfere with our lives. 

Jesper Conrad: Your mother. She's nice in this thing. 

Cecilie Conrad: No, no. The thing was I was afraid that the school system would come and check on us and find it not good enough and start forcing us into the school system or to do things we didn't want to do. So every day I thought I would teach the children. Most days I didn't and I felt guilty about it, and some days I did and there was a lot of negative emotion and it was just a bad situation for the. 

Martin Cooke: That's the space that I'm in. I feel conflicted because I suppose, intuitively or not intuitively I just want to go out and have fun with them. But I'm at home, it's winter, I'm in the house, the house is always a bit messy, there's always like things to do that isn't going out and having fun with them. I mean, it might be different in the summer. 

Cecilie Conrad: They can have fun with each other. Yeah, yeah, they all I mean there are other options than schooling at home or going out having fun. You could also just have fun at home. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the children are all really into Minecraft, or the younger three, it's amazing, the four-year-old. He fell and broke his arm a few weeks ago and they say that children, after they've been ill, they can have developmental leaps. I don't know if you've ever heard of this, especially after I think it's specifically in the context of having a virus and getting a really big fever they can wake up and they can read. Yeah, and I watched him on Minecraft. There he is. I mean, the day after he broke his arm, he's doing Lego. He only He broke his left arm, but he loves Lego and he's doing Lego with his good hand and his mouth. He's. He's right away. It's amazing. 

Cecilie Conrad: Nothing will stop him Nothing will stop him. 

Martin Cooke: And then this Minecraft. I was watching him and I was thinking how do you know how to do this When you watch a young person that's native on a device, right, it's just like Yeah that's crazy. He's fought and he's just picked it up just by observing how do I walk You. Look around you, and he observes it because he sits with his older brother who watches hours of YouTube videos on how to do Minecraft. So he knows how to do it, but he's internally self-motivated to do so, isn't he? He really wants to. 

Cecilie Conrad: And also this is another thing I think we have to get over as parents home educating parents we think we are the educators Right. We think the knowledge comes from us to the children, maybe through a book we give them or something that comes from us, but it doesn't In reality. It comes from the curiosity of the child. They go out and explore the world and sometimes we get to be the helper or we get to get along and walk through the exploring I have had, we have had so, so many experiences with our children. Now They are a bit older now And where we're like how do you know that? Why, how did you? I mean, i live with them, even in a van. You know, i'm with them 24, seven. 

Martin Cooke: You've kept this extra language. How do? 

Cecilie Conrad: you know this. I remember and this is a long time ago we were at the Louvre in Paris and it was a very hot day and we went to see the lady, as we call them, on a Lisa. We have it's like a ritual We go to see the lady when we're in Paris and it was just a very hot day and you can't take off your t-shirt at the Louvre and it was very. They have this glass ceiling and it was like an oven. So we were like, okay, what can we do? We go to the basement. They have the. 

Cecilie Conrad: I can't say this I can't say this in English. Egyptologic how do you say it in English? Like things from old Egypt collection. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, old stuff collection, yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: No, no, no no. 

Martin Cooke: Egypt. 

Jesper Conrad: Things stolen from Egypt. Oh yeah, yeah, i don't think I, i don't think I Also the. 

Martin Cooke: Egyptian. 

Cecilie Conrad: Artifacts from Egypt. it's called Egyptologic, whatever I don't know. 

Cecilie Conrad: We went to see things from Egypt in the basement at the Louvre and there I am and Storm, he is nine and he cannot read. We're like four years before he can read and he starts to lecture the whole family in a nice way I don't know if lecture is the right word to use but in a nice way, explaining all of us about all of the hieroglyphs, like this one means this and this one. You see how the head is like different. That's because 200 years later they changed it and they changed all of them. So see, here's one original and here's one. And he was like I'm not like. 

Martin Cooke: How. 

Cecilie Conrad: I don't know this. We never talked about it. We didn't watch a movie. I don't know to this day, i don't know where he knew it from, but he knew. So I think this is what, just like we think we have to teach them to read, i think the idea that we're the center of their educational universe is wrong, and this is something we have to get over. 

Jesper Conrad: But yeah, and it leads me. Oh shit, my leg is like No, it leads me on this How do we know what we think? How do we know what our children need to live a fantastic life? 

Cecilie Conrad: How and I remember some- To be emotionally grounded is one of them. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, that's one of them. Cecilia and I talked about it at some point when we had some anxiety many years ago about being homeschoolers and I sat down and really thought about what is it I want from my children when they are out of not our care, but our In the world? Yeah, Then it's like okay, emotionally grounded is one of them, Being self-sustainable, so they don't need to be dependent on the state necessarily. They should be able to This is economics. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, they should need to be able to feed and put clothes and the roof over their head, and those are the two most important ones. And then for me there is like, if they can find and nurture a passion, then life is on so many levels more easy, because you just have a drive towards what you find fun And then if you can ground yourself and do the other things, then I think you will be able to find love and a community around you. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, i can't disagree with any of that, I mean amen to all of that. Really, That's. 

Cecilie Conrad: The hard part is to let go of the idea that they also need the curriculum of mass and the world history and the three or four languages and the grammar. And I find that, in all fairness, it came from him all the pressure in the beginning, but then when we realized we're doing all this in order to serve our fear of the state, our children are paying with their time and their self-esteem. So rather we should be courageous and give them their freedom and should the day come where the state is knocking our door and want to check on us, we will have to be there. And when they will check on us, we will have to pick our fight and stand up for it. And until that day, let them be free and happy. And that was very easy for my husband. He could just let go. He was like I don't care if they can read and write, i don't care if they can do any math or know anything about World War, whatever, i don't care as long as they're happy. For me this has been harder. 

Jesper Conrad: One part of that and then you can ask Sorry, but one part of that I actually think comes from me being very kind of uneducated. I had a big interest in making movies when I was like 15, 16 years old, made an amateur feature film, wanted to go to the film school and stuff like that. I only went to high school because that was my parents only. Like you can do whatever you want, but please do this at least. So I did that Because he's nice. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, but the nice boy from the suburbs you know. But then later in life I talked with my dad about it about should I take a university degree? should I go down to an old normal road And he said something to me that lingered, which was back when I started my life yesterday as an adult. then what I ended up doing for the majority of my career wasn't invented when it was time to go to university. And if I look at my own life it's kind of the same. 

Jesper Conrad: I ended up with 20 years in the media industry, but on the internet, with the worldwide website And the ET University of Copenhagen was grounded the year I started full-time working inside that industry. So I would have had to wait five years to start my career. It would just have been stupid. So for me, i think the choosing not to go to university and just giving a flying fuck about it was for me I always believed I could make it, that I could find my way, that I didn't need a support system to do it. So when we came back to what our children needed, i was like they don't need to go to university unless they find it fun. 

Martin Cooke: I'm a really big skeptic of university now. It's very expensive to go and I think it's terrible value for money. You should go if you love a subject, but I don't think enough people love their subjects. In my line of work I'd work with people who'd been in the line of work for maybe 20 years and I'd ask them how long have you enjoyed being an accountant? They say well, never. But it pays well, so well, that's number one problem. And then I say to them what are you passionate about? It's the Ikegai. 

Martin Cooke: Have you heard of Ikegai? Ikegai if I-K-A-G-A-I it's the Japanese philosophy of I'm doing a disservice. You'll need to look it up. But the essence of it is how to live well. And if you examine these three or four I can't remember the fourth, but the three I remember they're very important questions What are you passionate about, what are you good at and what motivates you? These are kind of English interpretations, but if you look up Ikegai, it's the belief, that kind of what you do with your life is at the cross section of what motivates you, what you're really passionate about and what you're good at, and I don't think we're taught enough about, or not even taught yet. 

Cecilie Conrad: So school doesn't teach you how to But the thing is, the whole structure of the school system doesn't. It's not individual. Everybody goes through the same thing. So it's not about what you are passionate about. No, that's not in the matrix of it. And I think one of the big problems of being schooled is that you don't get to find out what you're passionate about. You don't get to be bored. You don't get to feel unsettled, annoyed, frustrated because you're not fulfilled. You don't get to make bad choices about the structure of your day or your week or your year. You don't get to realize that there's something you really need to know, you really want to know it, because it was really annoying not knowing it in an X, y, y situation, because you don't make any decisions on what you're doing. That's why it's the prison thing You get up in the morning at a certain hour, not when you're done sleeping. 

Cecilie Conrad: Put your uniform on, you put on your uniform or not uniform, but you leave at a certain hour, You jump when they say jump and you learn what they teach you. You should learn, and you learn to be happy if you get the good grades and sad if you don't. And you even learn. You said before some kids are thriving. Yeah, maybe they are, but they learn that, oh, I'm the one thriving. And they don't learn to figure out. Maybe they would rather knit all day or sing all day. 

Martin Cooke: Or go for a long walk after lunch. 

Cecilie Conrad: They just good at the things that you're supposed to be good at, and luck on that. We have what we call lucky you. It's good for them, put on them, i think you say in English, but it doesn't teach even the thriving children and they will not learn from experience what makes them happy. That's the catch for everyone. 

Martin Cooke: It was really interesting doing my work trying to help somebody unravel years of conditioning in six sessions. You just can't do it almost. So I would just be playful and just be interested in who they were and just let the stories flow, and that's kind of why I found it fascinating really. 

Jesper Conrad: Yesterday, cecilia and I talked about ownership of your child And because if you look at a child, do they own themselves or do you own them? A lot of kids grow up with not choosing their own clothes. Some of them grow up with not having an ownership over their own hair. Somebody tells them when their hair needs to be cut. What does that actually say to a person, about being them, about how they are present in the world? if they cannot decide over their own body And with the school, they don't decide when to eat, when to go to the toilet, and it's just wild to think of how that affects you. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, and if you're homeschooling or unschooling, you might presume that you give less of a shit about what others think, and so have your kids brushed their hair and are they wearing shoes and all this fear of judgment of others? But certainly I always thought that home education you're kind of crusty and like hippy and you've got dreadlocks and you've got rainbow clothes and things like that And there are many different ways of doing it. But I certainly look at my children who've got yeah, all my children have got long hair. My youngest boy's got. Everybody says he's got like, oh the constant. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, yeah, same in our family yeah, same with yours, and I just think what people say to you says more about them than it does about what they're observing. It's their own fear or projection onto the child, whether it's thinking about oh, they're not reading yet. Or don't you want to cut their hair? or don't you want to wear a nice dress because you're a girl that kind? 

Jesper Conrad: of. Thing. 

Martin Cooke: It's all on them. And actually raising children to give less of a shit about what other people think of them, I think is part of what I'm interested in. 

Cecilie Conrad: I think it's a very nice question to find the balance, because I think also not giving a shit, not a shit at all, is that's not what I'm aiming for, because I also want for myself, being this not very nice person, and for my children to be able to balance, carrying themselves as they are, feeling that they are okay and whatever they find right is right, but still caring about the people around them, how they are perceived and how comfortable people we meet or people we are in some sort of relation with how they feel about the whole thing. 

Cecilie Conrad: I think, actually and because what we do is rare it's more rare where we come from than it is where you come from, but it's still rare We will always be some kind of representative of the homeschooling community. So if it's very much rainbow clothes and dreadlocks and bare feet that has not been washed for two years and Minecraft at the restaurant and very much of this, maybe dirty clothes, maybe things that we make a bad case for everyone else coming after us and we don't teach the surrounding society anything good about who we are and what we're doing, so actually I tell my children to comb their hair And I tell them to change the t-shirt. I tell them to take a shower. I tell them to cut their nails. I'm not telling them that they have to if they like. Really no, i don't want to cut my nails. 

Cecilie Conrad: I want to have long nails. Okay, it's your nails, but I will share with them the price of it. what will be perceived in the reality that we live in? because we don't live in a hippie community. We drive around in our van in all of Europe and we find ourselves in so many different contexts. You can't take off your t-shirt at the Louisville. you'll be kicked out, and if you want to talk to people, they have to perceive you as a somewhat interesting, nice person. 

Martin Cooke: Integrated. Yeah, yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: And you know three-day old ketchup on the t-shirt. It's just not a good sign to send. So there's a balance here. It's not all just freedom. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, you're right. Yeah, it's not freedom, anarchy and middle fingers. 

Cecilie Conrad: That's not where I am. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's interesting. I was just joining some dots in my head and I realised that I was talking about New Zealand, and part of the inspiration for travel as well going to New Zealand was because of somebody who I think you've recently interviewed, who's our old neighbour. Yeah, new. 

Cecilie Conrad: Zealand. 

Martin Cooke: So we stayed with them in their yurt, And you know they were. 

Cecilie Conrad: True, bad, now, i remember yeah. 

Martin Cooke: They were living off grids and they just arrived in New Zealand and we kind of gate-crashed their woofing place and we were living in the van there and kind of hanging around and saying how do we get around your country? But they've lived a really. You know they were our neighbours in London living a normal life and they sold up and travelled round Europe, first in a Volkswagen T25 and a Type 3 and you know they did that thing. And then he's a native Kiwi. But they really went brave and hard on, you know, buying a bit of land and living in a yurt and all of that Yeah it was a really brave story. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, yeah, and I haven't heard the interview yet, but their bravery is very inspiring and certainly part of our journey in giving us the confidence about knowing what you want And it's a very personal thing to you, isn't it? Like where you're? I don't know if it's boundaries, but you know you're like actually brush your hair because it's just going to lubricate the wheels of things. You know, this is where my boundaries are. It's really interesting and important, I think, to surround yourself with difference. Otherness, There's not one formula for living, let alone home, educating or unschooling. There are many different ways of doing it and being around different people. I think it's really great and healthy. 

Cecilie Conrad: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's why we travel around in different cultures and meet different people and we never really were attracted to at least not full-time living in communities, because exactly this they close around you know being right and they are very often very right. It's just, there's not much contrast, and I think reality has many layers and levels and it's a good thing to for our children and for us to be able to, yeah, walk into the Lula as well, as you know, sit on a beach playing guitar and having a bonfire with all the other barefoot hippies. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's just different social settings and different elements of life, and different social languages, if you want. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, so it's a richness, isn't it? It's a richness you're learning. It's like, you know, like a lot of people, if you imagine, there's a spectrum of living and most people are in here and in there, there are highs and lows and there are extremes and of all different things, of cultures and, yeah, educational models and work and everything, isn't it? So I commend the way you're traveling. I think it's amazing. My question I know we're almost out. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yes, let's do it. 

Martin Cooke: Was to what extent was the motivation for getting up and into the van motivated by the not fear? but you know the authorities observing us. You know if we get in the van they can't. You know. See you later. Can we get us if you can? Catch us if you can. 

Cecilie Conrad: I think it was more the other way around. It was other things motivating us to get into the van and go. 

Martin Cooke: Right. 

Cecilie Conrad: But it was a great advantage. 

Martin Cooke: That's a bonus. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, we knew once we're in the van we're safe. See you later. Yeah, it was. See you later, it was. You know. We can just in our language we say leave the bakery if you don't like the smell. 

Jesper Conrad: Yeah, but it's also the really fun thing, martin, was. you know, in Denmark we are less than one percentage, less than a half percentage. that homeschool And even on schooling is weird, and when we started back then there were maybe 10 families maximum. Nowadays it's getting more and more common, among others because people share about it. more people get their eyes open. But when we were in Denmark homeschooling our kids, unschooling them, when we talk with people about it, there was kind of that's a little weird, that's uncommon. I haven't heard about that. What are you doing? How will your children survive And will they able to be able to read and do math and all these things? But as soon as we started our full-time traveling, that skepticism became interest. It's like, oh man, i always wanted to travel. What a dream come true. 

Cecilie Conrad: Oh my. 

Martin Cooke: God stop. 

Jesper Conrad: We are doing the same. Stop it. 

Martin Cooke: That is absolutely what we experienced so much, even when Well, you have the reverse situation, I suppose. How do you mean? 

Cecilie Conrad: That you traveled for a long time and now you're based in one place And when you get all this? how will they? 

Martin Cooke: It's rather interesting, just having lived the got out of the matrix. I feel like we got out of the matrix And then we've kind of consciously gone back into it. Charlie's doing a very normal clever job And I'm at home with the kids, but actually in many ways it's kind of like I don't think we would have continued traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling. It's just like chapters of a book. You know chapters of a book And we're in a chapter now and we bought a wreck of a house that we'll do up And we could sell it in two years and move to Mexico or stay here for 20 years. 

Cecilie Conrad: We don't know. 

Martin Cooke: I don't know. I'm comfortable with not knowing. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, Sitting with not knowing. I think it's really. 

Cecilie Conrad: I hope you're still staying long enough for us to come visit. 

Martin Cooke: Well, we're going to be in. We're doing a little trip with all the people from the woods. Actually We're coming to the south of France, need to lose in the end start of September, and so I think we're going to be in France, maybe for September, but here here in the summer, certainly. Yeah. 

Cecilie Conrad: We will drop by. Perfect, excellent, we'll drop by. You're going to make it. You're going to make it. Yeah, definitely. I've got all the papers right this time. And I know which ones I don't have which it was an air. 

Martin Cooke: It was it admin. 

Cecilie Conrad: It was admin. Yeah, yeah, it was admin. And it was not meant to be exactly. It was just the universe knocking us in a different way This time we have a shuttle on the 17th of July and we are coming. 

Martin Cooke: Cool, lovely, we're going to the home education family festival. 

Cecilie Conrad: Are you coming there? 

Martin Cooke: Oh, where's that? 

Cecilie Conrad: That's October in the North ish, like two hours north of London. 

Martin Cooke: August. Oh cool, I don't know about that. You have to send me the details. Yeah, I will. 

Jesper Conrad: And we will share them in the show notes and we should kind of wrap up. Yeah, we should be talking for hours. I know? 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, i know, if anybody is still with us. Thank you for having lovely. Oh, it just it's a very personal thing, isn't it? I just feel like I've been chatting to you, but perhaps with one one eye, that somebody might be listening. But hopefully it's been of interest and value to somebody. 

Cecilie Conrad: It's very nice to talk to you. 

Martin Cooke: Yeah, but it's just for me, it's just nice to connect with you again and like one I feel. yeah, like when you know, when you connect with people and there's a nice saying, I don't know if you've heard of it friends are for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Sometimes you meet people and you're OK with not not speaking to them all the time because you know that you'll just always know them. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, i think that's what he saw in you, like yes, he told me like look at that guy over there. I think he's a friend, hmm. 

Martin Cooke: So that's what I felt. I felt, i felt a brotherly love for you And that was it. It was just you, just know. 

Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, perfect. That's why I want to end this conversation on the coming. Yeah we are coming. 

Martin Cooke: Excellent, lovely to see you. 

Cecilie Conrad: And we'll have a great hug. 

Martin Cooke: Indeed, I've really enjoyed it. Ok, thanks a lot for your time, Martin. Thank you Bye. 


#14 - Darcia Narvaez | The Evolved Nest: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Parenting and a Connected Society
#16 - Sandra Dodd | Always Learning: A Conversation with Unschooling


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